Reason #38: Yoga improves bone density

Did you know that there are upwards of 700,000 spinal fractures and 300,000 hip fractures a year in the U.S.? As we noted in our previous post on bone health, we typically reach maximum bone density around age 30, after which it's mainly about maintenance of what we've got. Often, those experiencing bone loss turn to medications which can have harmful side effects like gastrointestinal problems. We now have great news - 12 minutes of yoga a day may be an effective therapy for countering bone loss!

The evidence comes from a study done by Dr. Loren Fishman at Columbia University. Working against the predominant narrative that bone loss can't be reversed, only slowed, Dr. Fishman ran a study with 227 participants. The average age was 68, and most had osteoporosis or osteopenia.

Participants did 12min of yoga daily, involving holding 12 poses for 30 seconds each. In case you're curious, the poses were tree, triangle, warrior II, side-angle, twisted triangle, locust, bridge, supine hand-to-foot I, supine hand-to-foot II, straight-legged twist, bent-knee twist and corpse pose.

Now these were some dedicated participants, because they completed the 12min regime daily for 10 years! But the results were powerful and bucked common knowledge. The study showed that participants who were fully or moderately compliant with the regime increased the bone density of their spines and femurs. While nearly all participants had fragile bones at the start of the study, there was not a single case of a bone related injury related to practicing yoga.

Why is yoga so effective? According to Dr. Fishman, "Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does. By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells."

So just 12min of yoga daily can safely reverse the trend of bone loss we experience as we age. Check out this great NYTimes article for more on the study. Bone density - another reason we love yoga!